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Apartment Dealbreaker List

Few people would disagree that hunting for an apartment is the worst. I’m now on my eighth city apartment so I’m pretty opionionated about what’s important to me. The first thing I look for is something within my budget but after that my deal breaker list goes like this (in order of importance:)

1. Location: Must be in a fun location, with a fast commute. We don’t get out as much with kids so it is important to live in a fun neighborhood, the easier it is to go out the more you’ll do it.
2. Light: I lived in a cheap but dark apartment for three years and will never again. Natural light is higher on my list than a large apartment or laundry! My mood depends on it.

Click through for the rest of the list.

3. Space: Our family needs two bedrooms or sleeping areas. We currently live in a small apartment but I don’t think we could do a studio unless it was huge.
4. Architectural Details: Wood floors, moulding etc. This stuff makes such a difference in making a house look good.
5. Parking: This wasn’t as important to us before we had kids but now it makes us way more likely to get out and enjoy the city if we know we already have a parking spot.
6. Dishwasher: I haven’t lived in a house with a dishwasher since I left home at 18! I have dreams about them.
7. View: I would love an apartment with a view but I’ve never lived in place with a really great one.
8. Laundry: Coin laundry costs our family about $20/week and hiring out wash and fold costs about $50/week so we do the math and see if it is worth it to get laundry in our apartment and pay a little more in rent. (Sometimes hiring it out is cheaper and then you never have to do your laundry!)
9. Backyard: This is nice but lower on our list.
10. Fireplace: I had an awesome apartment with a fireplace and it made the grey winter so much better!

I have friends who only care about the size and other friends who won’t move in a place without parking. For me Location and Light are at the top. I think it is important to make a list because when you are looking at places you can figure out what you are willing to negotiate on and what is really important. For us we ended up compromising on space size in order to get a lot of other perks. What about you? Whats on your apartment deal breaker list?

ps: If you are new to SF and are looking for neighborhoods my personal favorites are: The Mission near Dolores Park, Cole Valley, Hayes Valley, The Castro, Duboce Triangle, Lower Haight, and Noe Valley. These neighborhoods are nice but not too fancy but have stores and restaurants nearby.


Photo by Heather Zweig for Oh Happy Day

  1. lulu

    April 2, 2013

    also, now we can wash our own car and not send out for laundry. and we don’t need a dog walker. oh… how those little city expenses creep up!

  2. Jessie

    April 2, 2013

    This is so great to read! We are currently apartment hunting in SF, so your tips come at perfect timing! Thank you! We just moved from NYC with our 16 month old daughter, and I’m missing it terribly! I hope we can find a place we love.

  3. Kerri from Happy Tuesday

    April 3, 2013

    I’ve been enjoying these little peaks into your beautiful apartment! My favorite apartment I ever lived in was an 1870s-era house, and I loved the built-ins. I didn’t have to buy or move in as much furniture! So I think architectural details might be a little higher on my list. But I so agree about natural light. I had windows on almost all sides (we were attached to a house on one side), so no matter the time, I had lovely light coming in.

  4. RitaMarie

    April 3, 2013

    I wish I would have scene this list when I was looking at buying a condo. I at least have the location, laundry, parking, and space down. :)

  5. Cynthia Zulla

    April 3, 2013

    1. Dog friendly 2. hardwood floors (see #1) 3. laundry in unit (see #1) 4. walkable neighborhood (again..)

    I just moved to a downtown Cincinnati apartment after living in a house in the burbs for 17 years. I love it! I walk/bike to Findlay Market (one of the oldest farmer markets in Ohio) every weekend for groceries, wine and gelato! Biggest priority for me is a place where I can have my beloved pups. Empty-nester now – but I still keep an extra room for her to come home to. I love your apartment.

  6. Franca Bollo

    April 3, 2013

    @Amanda Smith: I live in Russian Hill, too. Getting downtown is a direct shot on the bus or the cable car. You’re close to North Beach, Polk Street, Chinatown, Telegraph Hill, Fort Mason and the water. Just about every necessity is within walking distance: grocery stores, cinema, restaurants, hardware stores, dry cleaning, pharmacy, etc. It’s hilly but the bonuses are a great butt and jaw-dropping vistas.

    @Jordan, I’m with you on light. It is numero uno on my list. Actually, I think it takes up the first three spots, kind of like “location, location, location”. Every other item could be met but if the place didn’t have large windows with lots of bright, natural light, I’d be miserable and spending way too much time (and $$) on my therapist’s couch.

    @Lynn, here’s an article regarding garbage disposals and the environmental costs of dumping waste into the water system. NYC and many governments in Europe have banned garbage disposals.

  7. Franca Bollo

    April 3, 2013

  8. Molly

    April 3, 2013

    This is a great list! I would kill to live near Dolores Park. I’m in Bernal Heights, which is just up the hill from the Misison. A 2 minute walk to my grocery store, bank, pub, cafe, mexican/sushi/pizza/ice cream place. And right by the 14 stop so I can get to the 24th Bart Station. Isn’t San Francisco wonderful that way? You have a beautiful home! xo

  9. Laura

    April 3, 2013

    After moving into my current apartment and working from home, natural light has become a top priority. Other big ones are lots of counter space in the kitchen and an in-unit washer/dryer.

    I also think it would be difficult to not have a dog park within walking distance. We just got our pup a year ago so I’m not sure what’s it’s like without it, but there’s a small, fenced-in park right in our complex… I can look out my bedroom window and see if her doggie friends are out there to play with. I can’t imagine being able to take her out to play as much (and for me to get some sunlight!) if I had to walk further or (gasp!) drive.

  10. Nikki

    April 5, 2013

    I completely agree with you on Light and Location! We just completed our apartment hunt, and we thought we had found a jackpot (great location and CHEAP), but walked in and it felt like a dungeon. Barely ANY natural light. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. My husband knew before I even said anything that it just wasn’t going to work. Another top priority on my list is storage space. I can deal with a small living space, as long as I have space to stash my stuff!

    Also, I love your SF neighborhood choices. We visited their a month ago and stayed in an apartment in the Duboce Triangle and LOVED it. The Mission/Delores Park area was fantastic too! I’m jealous of anyone who gets to live there!

  11. charissa

    April 6, 2013

    We are new Bay-Area-ers, and moved to the Peninsula. We’re eyeing the city for when our lease is up, and as a Texas girl, I need to be in the warmest, sunniest place possible. I would LOVE a neighborhood roundup from OHD or anyone who wants to contribute!

  12. Sarita Rajiv

    April 7, 2013

    Natural light…that’s my number one! I’ve been living in Copenhagen for the past year. When the long, dark winters give way to long days and breezy summers, I need the light to flow in!

    While location isn’t a big issue with me, you’re right about how it influences how often you get out. Because we live in a place that’s close to everything, we get out exploring Copenhagen a lot more than we did in my home town Mumbai where the commute put us off.

  13. AnneEvans

    April 7, 2013

    Do you have a source for the pretty hooks the scarves are hanging on? Thanks!

    • jordan
      • jordan
      • April 8, 2013

      I got them from the Paris flea market.

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